Eileen Howard Boone is Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy for CVS Health, and President of the CVS Health Foundation. She is responsible for formulating the strategic positioning of the company’s corporate social responsibility platform and leading the company’s corporate philanthropic programs.
Every year, Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, honors The Civic 50, the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States. This year, CVS Health is proud to have earned a place on this distinguished list, reflecting the company’s standards for corporate civic engagement.
We are fortunate at CVS Health to have colleagues who are generous with their time, expertise and giving to make meaningful differences in the communities we serve.
In 2016, for example, CVS Health contributed more than $90 million in community support through CVS Health Foundation giving, corporate grants, gifts in-kind and employee volunteerism, which grew year-over-year by 65 percent.
So why does CVS Health heavily invest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs that help its colleagues engage in the community?
Well, there’s no shortage of research showing organizations that connect CSR and employee engagement distinguish themselves from the competition and see many benefits to their business and bottom line.
According to a 2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study, 51 percent of American employees won’t work for a company that doesn’t have strong social and environmental commitments and 74 percent say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact at work.
Other national studies have shown that companies with the highest levels of community engagement have improved rates of employee satisfaction and retention, and operating income and profits many times higher than companies with lower levels of engagement.
While there is a logical cause-and-effect to this business proposition, many organizations – large and small – struggle with where to start. With this in mind, here are a few key takeaways critical to connecting the power of employee engagement and CSR to drive business performance.
Growing Big from a Small Start
Having an impactful CSR program doesn’t need to be a huge undertaking or require a Fortune 500 budget. Starting small is often an effective way to get employee buy-in and ensure that the community work your company is doing is meaningful and relevant. Skills-based volunteerism can be an easy way to drive community impact. It reminds your employees both of their talents and how fortunate they are to be working for a community-minded company. At CVS Health, for example, a small group of pharmacists who volunteered health education support at local schools helped to identify a nationwide opportunity. Today, through Pharmacists Teach, our pharmacists visit high school health classes across the country, teaching students about the dangers of drug abuse.
Focus on Your Core Competencies
It’s also important to focus on your core business strategy and core strengths when deciding how to support a community need. Using our retail pharmacies to connect underserved patient populations with limited resources to free preventive health care services through our Project Health program is an example of a CVS Health initiative that supports our business, while fulfilling a real community health challenge: access to affordable care.
Unleash Your Community Champions
All companies have employees who are so passionate about giving back that they are willing to go above and beyond their work duties to support community programming. For CSR practitioners, it’s essential to identify these “champions” and turn them into energetic brand ambassadors that advance a particular community cause. At CVS Health, we support more than a dozen employee resource groups (ERGs) organized by like-minded colleagues who work both inwardly and outwardly to advance the company’s purpose and values, and support fulfilling community initiatives. Whether volunteering in a park clean-up day, collecting supplies for a local food bank or delivering support to local military families, ERGs are an easy and effective way to drive employee engagement and community impact.
Employees can be a powerful resource to any CSR program. When strategically integrated into a mix of volunteerism, skills-based giving, and workplace giving programs, employees are likely to increase their sense of corporate pride and purpose, and feel more connected to the community and your company-wide social responsibility activities. And when employees are happy and feel valued, they are more productive and share that happiness with customers.
And that can never be bad for any business.